Political divide in climate change opinions is stronger in some countries and some U.S. states than others: Testing the self-expression hypothesis and the fossil fuel reliance hypothesis

Hoi Wing Chan, Kim Pong Tam

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

Abstract

Despite the accumulation of evidence for the human causes of climate change, there is still a political divide in climate change opinions. Importantly, the strength of this political divide appears to vary across countries and across states within the United States. In this research, we proposed the self-expression hypothesis and the fossil fuel reliance hypothesis to explain these cross-national and within-country variations. We expected that the strength of the political orientation-climate change opinions link to be stronger among countries and states with a stronger emphasis on self-expression, higher levels of fossil fuel consumption, and greater economic interests associated with fossil fuels. We tested these hypotheses with two international data sets (Studies 1 and 2) and a U.S. state-level data set (Study 3). We found supporting evidence for the self-expression hypothesis and mixed evidence for the fossil fuel reliance hypothesis; fossil fuel consumption was related to a larger political divide between countries but a smaller political divide between states within the United States. These findings highlight the need to consider the role of cultural and socio-ecological factors in the political divide in climate change opinions. As we observed both similarities and differences between the two levels of analysis, our findings also suggest the need to consider how these factors modulate the influence of political orientation on climate change opinions both within and between countries.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101992
JournalJournal of Environmental Psychology
Volume87
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2023

Keywords

  • Climate change opinions
  • Cross-national comparisons
  • Cultural factors
  • Fossil fuel reliance
  • Political orientation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology

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